Minutes of ECR committee held Monday 3 February at 1.30pm


Jane Gay – chair

Dave Barraclough – footpath committee chair

Maggie Swindells – social secretary

Colin Finlayson – treasurer

Kathryn Carty – secretary


Sue Munslow – membership secretary

Keith Anderson

Actions / discussions

  1. Minutes of previous meeting of 11 November 2019 approved.
  • Maggie has already put an entry for safeguarding information (children and vulnerable adults) in FAQ’s and this will shortly go onto the website.
  • The walk grade descriptions will be updated on the following lines (not verbatim)

Short – 5 to 7+ miles approximately

Medium – 8 to 10+ miles approximately

Long – 11 miles plus

Easy – moderately flat walking on good paths

Moderate – Generally on good paths in undulating terrain but with some steep inclines

Strenuous – expect a fair bit of ascent and possibly some mild scrambling.  Route may take open country rather than trodden paths.

Stroller – 3 to 4 miles on even ground with little ascent and few easy stiles.

  • Recce charges

A charge of £5 per head is suggested to event organisers and if costs are not covered, this will be mopped up by surpluses on other events.  Prior to publishing the event organisers are advised to discuss with Colin F costings of an event and the reimbursement of reasonable expenses.  The amounts claimable are not fixed and will vary according to the event. It was felt that amounts should not be prescribed as a non-standard set of circumstances always arises.

  • Value for cost of subscription.  Colin had spoken to the FC at Ramblers but there has since been a staffing change so this will be mentioned to HO again.  It was felt that the competition from low annual fee walking groups, which are affiliated with national Ramblers for a small charge, is not recognised by HO.  The affiliated groups benefit from Ramblers insurance and our footpath maintenance. HO needs to publicise the footpath work which Ramblers members do in order to generate new members.
  • Walk programme This was considered to be holding up well and, as agreed at the AGM, walks will continue as before.  Some gaps are unavoidable without new younger members coming on the scene.  Members of other Ramblers groups have been taking advantage of ECR’s extensive programme.  Walk leaders need gently reminding to put their walks on the notice board two weeks before the date of leading so that they get posted in good time onto the national website. The stroller walks are going ahead.

The new system “what three words” was briefly discussed.  It is another way of locating a walk starting point with a phone app.

  •  Footpath maintenance work as reported in Dave’s footpath committee meeting of January 2020 below.
  • Planning for the 2020 Footpath Inspections is going ahead smoothly by Tony Battilana. He may have a small shortfall in inspector numbers and no longer has a reserve list. In due course we may request that the Committee approves a request to circulate the membership for new volunteers. (This might be combined with information to members on how to report path problems to PROW and a request from PROW for more volunteer involvement – see other points).
  • Routine business  is working normally on footpath problems, PROW Diversions and comments on road schemes. There are a couple of problems that we are pressing PROW for better attention, including footpaths on the   new airpath link road.
  • In the absence of much new initiative for maintenance work from the Projects Group, Nick Brearley is starting to identify ‘minor maintenance’ tasks from the past footpath inspections, with the intention of discussing these with Brian Richardson. This is exactly the purpose of the historical footpath inspection results. Nick was the organiser of the working party to clear undergrowth on the National Trust path at Alderley Edge and has personally cleared an overgrown path by the Airport Hotel, Altrincham Road.

Basically we still need new volunteers for the committee and footpath maintenance work.

  • Since the FP Meeting, Neil Collie and I have met the new PROW Enforcement Officer – Nicola Swinnerton –  (half time, covering half of Evan Pedley’s parishes). She is very enthusiastic (it was her proposal to have the introductory meeting). She is keen to make maximum use of volunteers, using the PROW list of ECR volunteers authorised to carry out minor work on footpaths. This might involve more frequent work than the annual inspection by volunteers and we are discussing the best level of collaboration to encourage/authorise contact with our members. I can report more details to the main ECR Committee.
  • We understand that the long awaited repair of the ‘Donkey Bridge’ at Pott Shrigley has been completed within the last week and the footpath re-opened. ECR contributed funds towards this repair. Although this has been long delayed, it is a fully satisfactory outcome of our support. It might be a suitable topic for a publicity article.

8.Lost Ways

This is very specialist area and there is no-one willing to take over the project, much to Colin Park’s disappointment after all his good work. We have  a shortlist of 5 lost ways which is currently in abeyance.  Costs of taking this forward are not yet being considered.  Dave’s footpath committee considered the subject in his report

Lost Ways – the FPC noted that the AGM had not found a replacement for Colin Park. It remains my view that the FPC already has plenty of work and should not add this to their responsibility. It is my personal view that the existing network of paths in Cheshire East is better than most and extra work on Lost Ways has limited value – given the long and tedious process to make the claims. However, the Committee is reviewing the merits of a small number (5) of potential claims from the Lost Ways list for comparison with a couple of potential new paths that we have already identified.

In Colin’s publicity report he commented about lost ways as follows

The other point I wish to raise is ‘Lost Ways’. Since standing down from the position of co-ordinator, no one has come forward to take on the position. It would be a pity if all the hours of work I undertook on researching this project was to go to waste. There are definitely some paths in our area worthy of saving.

9 Footpath Inspector social

The suggestion for a social event was approved by the committee but it was suggested that catering could be done in-house by buying sandwich platters and by volunteers baking.  There will be a maximum of probably 50 to 60 people probably on a Friday afternoon sometime in July.  There will be a walk put on beforehand. Those invited will include partners of FP inspectors as they often do the work alongside them.  Committee members will also be included.

The suggestion for this is included in Dave’s FP committee report.  Dave will develop these proposals and report to the next Committee Meeting.

We would like to organise a ‘Footpath Inspectors Meeting’ in the summer–the last was several years ago. The objectives are

  1. A ‘thank you’ meeting for their efforts
    1. To communicate and ‘train’ the inspectors to encourage consistency. (There have been a number of inconsistent and ‘over enthusiastic’ reports in the last couple of years!!)
    1. Obtain feedback and suggestions on the Inspection programme

We suggest inviting the Inspectors (about 39 in total) plus partners (who often help with inspections plus the Footpath Committee and Main Committee. The expected number might be 50 to 60 people. After discussion it was felt that widening the invitees to others (such as project group volunteers, walk coordinators, walk  leaders, social organisers etc) would be too large and would dilute the purpose of the meeting. Possible venues are Macclesfield Tennis Club or the Wizard Tearooms at Alderley National Trust, with light refreshments provided. We propose that the cost of this (for room hire, tea and cakes) should be covered by ECR at about £10 to £15 per head. Colin Finlayson considers that we have the funds. It  is a matter for the ECR Meeting to discuss and approve.

10.   Social secretary’s report

        Maggie’s report below summarises the progress she has made.

        As always fresh members need to come forward to volunteer to put on trips.

Thanks go to all our fellow ramblers who continue to co-ordinate walks, lead walks and provide social events for our group. Their continued support and enthusiasm is much appreciated.

The Social Calendar for 2020 is filling up nicely. We have, in addition to an excellent walking programme, an additional event in the calendar for most months throughout the year. 2020 was kicked off with Keith’s Sherry Walk organised by Lorraine and Melanie. Thanks go to both of them for organising this event. In February we will host a talk from a representative from Styal Prison about The Clink and the positive impact it has had on reducing reoffending rates. On the 20th March Judith Wilshaw will lead a guided history walk in Stockport and we hope to end the walk with afternoon tea at the Plaza in Stockport.

Members of ECR have very kindly volunteered to organise four weekends away for members. Thanks go to Jane Gay, Steve Hull, Colin Park and Andy Davies. These events require a great deal of planning and organisation and I’m very grateful to all of them for giving up their time to put these events on.

Ann Thompson is organising a coach trip to Settle in June and Gina Thompson and I are organising another coach trip in September. We’re meeting in February to agree where to go!

I’m hoping to book another event in late October, possibly a talk, Barn Dance and or quiz, and a second history walk in the summer with Rodney Hughes. In addition I will investigate further First Aid training which was requested at the AGM.

A ceilidh organised by Tony B has now been fixed for 31 October 2020 and Jane has also organised a short walk with Martin the Ranger for 12 September 2020.

11.  Treasurer’s report

As at 31 January the bank balance stands at £6353.11.  The Christmas lunches (weekend and mid week) were well attended and broke even.

12.  Membership secretary’s report

January 2020

At the end of December the total membership was slightly down again to 553 with only 2 joining.

However, in January we have already 5 new members this month.  Four live in Macclesfield and one lives in Crewe.

Another trend is having more members from other Cheshire groups walking with us particularly on our longer walks. A few of them have said they are attracted to our programme because of the number of walks we put on , and long walks which are at a good pace. 

13 Publicity report

Colin needs people to write up articles of their walks and send them to him along with a photo or two for entry in the paper and for our website.

There is little to add to the Publicity Report other than I am still writing articles which are published in the Macclesfield Express each week. I continue to write up article on group walks. It would be great if more people provided short article on walks which could go on our website.

14. Format of minutes

It was suggested that the members’ reports could be copied and pasted into the minutes rather than included as attachments.

15.  Website discussion

The current website was discussed from the viewpoint of new / potential members alighting on it.  Some parties felt that the walks within the next 7 days page which comes up would be exactly what potential members would want to see.  Some felt the About page was the better home page.  Both are easy to locate.

16. National Conference

Jane would be going to this along with Steve Butterfield who is Area Secretary.

17.  Chair’s report

It is ECRs  turn to attend National Conference which is on the fourth and fifth of April. I have circulated the committee and nobody has come forward to say they would like to attend. I am attending and have invited Steve to attend with me as I think it would be a good opportunity to discuss the future of the area. I think I might have to be nominated to attend but not sure perhaps we can do that anyway!

I think some of you will have noticed that we were asked to complete a group walks survey in one of the bulletins that came out from central office. Roger has completed this and for that I thank him. He did mention in communication that he would like a password protected area on the website. He has talked to me about this and we both think it would be a good idea and then things like the minutes of meeting could go in that area and not be available to anybody else to read. 

We are still in need of 2 committee members and someone to take charge of Lost Ways. 

18.  Diary dates

  • ECR AGM Saturday 14 November
  • Area AGM Saturday 30 November
  • Next meeting at Jane’s Tuesday 5 May at 1.30pm.

19.  Future action points

  • First Aid training to be booked through HO though actual training is done by St John’s Ambulance. (MS)
  • Gillian Kaye to be asked about repeating walk leader training as her previous training was excellent. (MS)
  • All to pursue new committee members (preferably two)
  • FP committee needs at least one new member.  A female on the committee may be a good thing.
  • More volunteers needed for footpath maintenance
  • Colin to pursue value for cost of subscription.
  • Volunteers to be pursued (by all!) for organising social events.  (Brian Griffiths will be great loss to the group.)
  • Walk leaders to be encouraged to write a report for Colin’s publicity as this may attract new members. 
  • Walk co-ordinators to remind leaders to put walks on website two weeks in advance.

Kathryn Carty – secretary